Forever Amber

… and not a Fossil in Sight

Fossilised Amber
“whence we see spiders, flies, or ants entombed and preserved forever in amber, a more than royal tomb”. Francis Bacon Snr

Secluded in the comfortable environs of The New Cavendish Club in Marylebone, we were treated to an amble through favoured Amber fumes with Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels  (a blog delighting the senses with fragrance reviews and tickling the olfactory sensibilities) at Perfume Lovers London.

So what is AMBER?

When we think of  Amber, two things spring to mind: it’s fossilised tree resin, possibly containing the starter kit for the next Jurassic park and a much desired semi-precious gem.   However, neither palaentologists nor gemmologists are we, but Perfumistas here to explore the SMELL of amber!

To dispel confusion, the scent of amber is not a direct extraction of the gem itself, but the idea inspired by the the warmth and translucency  of its honeyed, toffee colour to reflect   the gem (resin) itself.  In order to create that warm, sweet, soft and rich base,  a  blend of materials, called an ACCORD is created, comprising a mix of Vanilla, Benzoin and Cistus:

Vanilla

Vanilla plantifolia
Vanilla beans

Benzoin

Styrax tonkinensis
Benzoin resin

Cistus

Cistus landiferana

So, hurrah, good news for all Natural Perfumers and Aromachologists, we can create an amber base accord from natural materials.

Amber is occasionally confused with Ambergris (grey amber) and Ambrette seed, but these are more animalic, soft and musky, without the same sweetness.  However, I do think a touch of ambergris or ambrette seed would blend beautifully and give your amber accord a deeper facet.

Birgit explained a few ‘Amber’s from the aroma-chemical palette:

  • Ambre 83 is an aroma-chemical, like labdanum and vanilla accord and is used in synthetic perfumes – it is heavy and rich.
  • Ambroxan/Ambrosan? – a lighter,  synthetic amber (present in Juliette has a Gun and Essential Molecules),

“An amber scent of odorous perfume.   Her harbinger.”

– John MiltonSamson Agonistes (l. 720)

Once a devotee of ‘En passant’ by Frederic Malle, Birgit was then seduced by the promise of Ambers’ hidden, molten fire depths and stepped off the path of safety and into  ‘les ambres’ of the following juices:

So let our nostrils commence:

Starter Amber – For the tentative at heart

  1. L’eau D’ambre – L’Artisan Parfumeur 1978

This one is ‘amber for people who don’t like amber’ and was created by Jean Claude Elena who is not known for his opulence.  But this one has a bit of spice, soft, pleasant, quite simple with a subtle, warm-skin drydown.  I would wear this either on a balmy evening in London (not too intoxicating), or in early Autumn.  Sedate but not stuffy!

  1. Annick Goutal  – Ambre Fetiche (2007)

Feminine and delicate, but then leather, incense and spice comes through – ooh I’m transported (secretly), perhaps to a male temple (hidden of course!!).  It is tenacious and has beautiful depth, and a unisex quality to it.  Even 2 weeks later the well-kept scent paddle has a rich  warmth – delectable and expensive!  I’m thinking of the demure but secret-minx female who would wear the softest, buttery suede bespoke corset beneath the silk blouse and pencil skirt (think the ‘fetiche’ bit went to my head!).  Or one for winter , with a fur coat and a sprinkling of diamonds.

Heavy Hitters – Amber with Attitude

  1. Serge Lutens – Ambre Sultan

A herbal note hits you, bay leaves and oregano, you feel its going to be a mediterranean odyssey, but nooooo, it mellows to something much more sensual, warm, complex and exotic; perhaps I’m now in a Bedouin tent belly dancing? Or laying on silk cushions being fed nectar, ripe figs and fresh dates.

American Male Superhero – a Square Jawed Tim ‘Nice but Dim’ type

  1. Tom Ford – Amber Absolue

Very straightforward amber, Birgit said it probably did not do it justice smelling on paper, more leather and masculine.  I was not taken by this one, however, I have smelt the paddle again after two weeks and its quite attractive, I think it suited quite a few people on the night when they tried it on their skin.  “Tim’s” are perhaps not my cup of tea!

  1. Armani Prive

A heavier, spicier Amber, quite macho..I didn’t scribble much down about this one!  Obviously, I did not give this one much attention – so distracted by the conviviality surrounding me and re-sniffing ‘fumes 1-3!

  1. Mono Di Orio – L’ambre D’Or

I am not overly familiar with this House, although I have smelt a couple of her fragrances – and loved them!  The fragrances are usually controversial and bold, but L’ambre D’Or offered up a softer, green/fig hit, lulling us with a powdery feminine base.

Elegant Amber – For the Understated Minx

  1. Mitzah – Dior

Fresher initially, with a herbal/sweet note, deceptively elegant and understated, but then really quite complex with a spicier, powder dry-down and extremely wearable and charismatic.  On the skin it smelt wonderful, and would be great for daytime,  or at work when  you want to be taken seriously but without cracking a whip and wearing ‘tin-can’ shoulder pads.  It’s ‘power amber’ by stealth!

  1. Amouage Opus 6

Ha, Birgit named this her ‘star-trek’ amber, due to its holographic quality, and its see through, weightless quality, there is an intriguing rosey-incense note, with powder and a peppery-ness which lifts it up.  It contains, Citrus, Frankincense, Bay, Ambranum, Sandalwood, Cistus + Patchouli, creating this tug of war between the deep base, creamy wood notes and its ‘airy-infinite space’ quality, I really liked this  – like travelling at warp speed within a perfume, it ricochets you back and forth.

I need to try this on my skin ..  but having spent the earlier part of the day smelling and teaching and then an evening inhaling ambers, I had olfactory overload not enhanced by my blithe spraying on of Mitzah, Ambre Sultan and a variety of others whose beguiling bottles caught my eye.

I wafted sillage of at least 100 feet on the way to Marble Arch!!  But by gum (or resin) it was worth it.

Amber drops forming on tree

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About The Perfume Mistress

"If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then the nose is the doorway to your imagination" The Perfume Mistress Hello, by day I am a clinical aromatherapist and tutor, with over 10 years of working with natural materials and essential oils, by night I delve into the art of botanical perfumery, reading and smelling all things olfactory. I have set up the 'Nosetrodami Club' offering scentsory talks, discussions and master-classes on all topics and themes olfactive. I also offer one and two day workshops in the art of natural perfumery, natural and organic body & skincare. My inspirations range from the mundane to the metaphysical, the hum-drum to the hyperbolic which you may see reflected in my posts.
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2 Responses to Forever Amber

  1. Olfactoria says:

    Hi Tanya,
    I just stumbled over your blog and found your entry on the amber evening! I’m glad you enjoyed it! It was very nice meeting you. The “male temple” with stick in my memory forever! 🙂

    • Hi Birgit
      Thank you for stumbling 😉

      I am SO behind in getting my posts up to date (how do all those bloggers do it), a busy busy time!
      Hope you are finding some lovely ‘fumes out there, perhaps we now need a ‘forbidden temple’?

      It is very humid in London … need a fragrant fan.

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